Mitzi Drake, president of Finishing Touch Construction Cleaning, Inc. has owned her business, for 15 years, but the company has only been a Missouri Women Business Enterprise-certified company for about a month.
The Missouri WBE, along with the Missouri Minority Business Enterprise, or MBE, is a process women- and minority-owned businesses can go through to become certified through the Missouri Office of Equal Opportunity.
WBE is open to companies that are at least 51 percent women-owned, and there are 937 WBE companies in Missouri, said Roxy Flores, fiscal and administrative officer for the state’s Office of Equal Opportunity.
Certified businesses can take advantage of educational and networking opportunities, as well as some economic opportunities when it comes to bidding for state contracts – some of which must be granted to MBE and WBE businesses.
“A woman business owner applies, and they have to show they are running the business,” Flores said. “We want to make sure it is not a sham in order for them to receive economic opportunity.”
Drake said she applied for WBE certification after some of the builders she works with asked whether she had it. And now that she’s completed the process, she’s optimistic for what it might bring.
“I fully intend on taking advantage of it in hopes of getting more state work,” she said. “I’m very excited about it.”
Drake has good reason to be optimistic. Through July, 67 Missouri WBE companies were primary contractors on 99 state contracts, receiving $585,000 as a result. An additional 182 companies were listed as subcontractors, receiving $1.5 million, Flores said.
Flores noted that WBE-certified businesses also are listed in a directory and online at www.directory.oeo.oa.mo.gov
. The application process
Any woman-owned business can apply for WBE certification, regardless of employee numbers or revenues, Flores said. There’s no monetary cost for certification, but owners must be willing to provide necessary documentation, including proof that the business is majority-owned by a woman, along with tax records and, for companies less than three years old, a current balance sheet and detailed business plan.
Once the documentation is reviewed by the state and deemed to be in order, an on-site visit is scheduled, and a report with recommendations is prepared.
If an application is denied, the owners cannot reapply for 180 days. Recertification is required every three years.
Elizabeth Huber, CEO of Jefferson City-based Huber & Associates Inc., which also operates a Springfield office, applied for WBE certification about a decade ago. She said the process of pulling together paperwork took several months.
Initially, she said, her computer sales and consulting company was denied certification.
At the time, she was still working full time at IBM, and on her incorporation forms, she was listed as secretary, while her husband, James, who owns 48 percent of the company, was listed as president.
“When we first started, titles didn’t matter to us. We did whatever we had to do to make the business run,” Elizabeth Huber said. “I’m the boss and my husband plays the tech role, but I wasn’t going to take the title from him.”
When she quit her day job, they filed new bylaws showing her duties as president, and the company’s application was eventually approved later in 1999.
To date, Huber & Associates has won contracts worth more than $1 million as a result of WBE certification, Elizabeth Huber said.
Two of the 25-year-old company’s biggest contracts have been subcontracting jobs for the Department of Corrections, she said.
“We put (certification) on our bids even if WBE is not a requirement on the project,” Huber said. “You can’t be in Jefferson City and not do business with the state. It’s a huge part of the economy here.” Other benefits
Dedra Shields, president and owner of Core10 Field Services LLC, made sure her mechanical contracting company, which performs industrial work in power plants, was WBE-certified when she founded the business three years ago.
Shields said the reviewer who did the site visit made sure she was actually the sole owner of the business, which is in an industry that’s typically male-dominated.
“They made sure I had the knowledge of the work and asked a lot of financial questions,” she said.
The certification hasn’t paid off – at least not directly – for Core10.
“When we’ve bid on contracts, we don’t receive anything that says they took the WBE certification into consideration, that’s something I wish they would do,” Shields said.
“The certification has still been worth it because we hear about a lot more work, and we’re listed on
the state Web site.”[[In-content Ad]]